What makes customers buy a tee shirt from a café, bakery, or restaurant and wear it around, advertising that business to everyone they meet?

For some, it’s a special love for that particular business. For others, it’s a foodie identity, a feeling of being in-the-know about good food and where to find it. Some might find a slogan funny or irresistible, or a logo or design thoroughly charming. There’s even a list at Food and Wine of their picks for best food-related tee shirts, including this one:

A party without cake is just a meeting T-shirt

How do you design a shirt that customers will want to wear? And once they buy it, how do you get them to wear it? Keep two broad principles in mind when coming up with your design.

Principle #1: Design for Your Crowd

Is your storefront in a tourist destination, where people are on the lookout for cool souvenirs of their vacation? Include the city name in your design, or try a map graphic. Are you popular with hipsters? Try a vintage-look logo with distressed ink, or a slogan including food-related wordplay like this one from Murray’s Cheese Shop:

Straight Outta Comté tee-shirt from Murray's Cheese Shop



Sass can also go over well if you attract self-identified foodies, as with this shirt from Philadelphia pub The Industry with its meat-cred slogan, “We work more than you, we drink more than you, we eat parts of the pig that you won’t.”


Principle #2: Design for Your Identity

Does your food come from a national tradition? Try a slogan in that country’s language, or feature an iconic dish in a fun way, like this Pho Shizzle tee; If you have a specialty or a theme, show it off. Donut bakery Cops & Donuts has gone all-in on their law enforcement and donut theme, with shirt slogans like “Don’t glaze me, bro” and “D.W.I. – Donuts Were Involved”:

Shirt with text "DWI - donuts were involved"


Been around a long time? Proclaim it on your shirt, like Carlo’s Bake Shop, founded in 1910.

Do you have an interesting name or distinctive logo? Feature it, like Crafstman and Wolves Patisserie:

Craftsman and Wolves tee shirt


Reward Your Customers

Once customers have bought your shirt, how do you thank them for wearing it? You could offer customers a special discount when they shop while wearing it — but the rest of your customers are already there, and some proud shirt-collectors feel sheepish wearing a shirt to the establishment where they bought it. Instead, consider offering the deal for customers who snap a photo of themselves in the shirt while on vacation or out in public, then share the photos on their social media accounts — tagging your business, of course. Customers want to share their experiences on social media; giving them more chances to do so will boost their estimation of your value. With an attractive shirt, you’ll get social media traffic, customer-to-customer advertising, and maybe even a few more shirt sales.

Does your bakery or restaurant have a tee shirt? Show it to us! Post photos on Twitter @TwinPeakOnline or on our Facebook wall, and tell us why you love your design. We promise to share, too!